Nation & World Briefs 02-19-13 Microsoft to spend $30M in marketing blitz for its launch of Outlook.com

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft is so confident it has the Internet's best email service that it is about to spend at least $30 million to send its message across the U.S.

The barrage begins today when Microsoft's twist on email, Outlook.com, escalates an assault on rival services from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., AOL Inc. and a long list of Internet service providers.

As part of the process, all users of Microsoft's Hotmail and other email services operating under different domains such as MSN.com will be automatically converted to Outlook.com by the summer, if they don't voluntarily switch before then. All the old messages, contacts and settings in the old inboxes will be exported to Outlook.com. Users will also be able to keep their old addresses.

Email remains a key battleground, even at a time when more people are texting each other on phones.

People still regularly check their inboxes, albeit increasingly on their smartphones. The recurring email habit provides Internet companies a way to keep people coming back to websites. It gives people a reason to log in during their visits so it's easier for email providers to track their activities. Frequent visits and personal identification are two of the keys to selling ads, the main way most websites make money.

Seeks to learn more: Now that investigators have determined the origins of the engine-room fire that paralyzed a Carnival cruise ship at sea for five days, they will try to learn more about the cause, the crew's response, and why the ship was disabled for so long. A Coast Guard official said Monday that a leak in a fuel oil return line caused the engine-room fire that disabled the Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving 4,200 people without power or working toilets for five days.

Talked to feds about Hoffa: Tony Zerilli, who believes he knows where Jimmy Hoffa was buried, said he's been interviewed three times by federal authorities since stepping forward in January. Zerilli told Detroit TV station WDIV (http://bit.ly/VAG5cg ) that the FBI has enough information for a search warrant to dig in Oakland County. He says he answered every question from agents and prosecutors. The FBI declined to comment Monday. Zerilli was convicted of organized crime as a reputed Mafia captain. He was in prison in 1975 when Hoffa disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant but said he was informed about Hoffa's whereabouts after his release.

Steal diamonds worth millions: Eight masked gunmen made a hole in a security fence at Brussels' international airport, drove onto the tarmac and snatched some $50 million worth of diamonds from the hold of a Swiss-bound plane without firing a shot, authorities said today. The gang used two black cars in their daring raid late Monday, grabbed the cache of stones and sped off into the darkness, said Anja Bijnens, spokes man for the Brussels prosecutor's office. "They tried to pass themselves off as police officers," Bijnens said. They reportedly wore outfits which resembled dark police clothing and both cars had blue lights on top, she said.

Slaps more sanctions on N. Korea: The European Union imposed trade and economic sanctions on North Korea while condemning "in the strongest terms" the nation's latest nuclear test. The 27 EU finance ministers also demanded North Korea abstain from further tests and urged it to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay. The statement came as the ministers met Monday in Brussels.

Johanns says he won't seek second term: U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2014, saying he wants a "quieter time" to focus on his family following a busy political career that included stints as governor and President George W. Bush's agriculture secretary. The Nebraska Republican announced that he was retiring from the Senate after one term. He said he and his wife, Stephanie, had decided that the time had come to end a public career that has spanned more than half of his life. In an interview, Johanns said he and his wife -- a former state lawmaker -- had endured a combined 16 primary and general-election campaigns together. They held eight different offices over the course of 32 years.

Seeks bankruptcy protection: The parent company of Reader's Digest has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time in less than four years, saying it needs to cut its debt so it can keep restructuring. RDA Holding Co. says it will keep publishing the magazine during the bankruptcy, and aims to be out of Chapter 11 within six months. The New York company said late Sunday that it plans to cut its debt load by 80 percent during the restructuring, leaving it with about $100 million in debt. It said it has already reached agreements with its secured lender and more than 70 percent of its secured noteholders. A group of its creditors have supplied $45 million in new financing to help Reader's Digest go through the process as part of a $105 million loan to repay existing bank debt.

Burger King Twitter account hacked: Somebody hacked Burger King's Twitter account on Monday, posting obscene messages and changing its profile picture to a McDonald's logo. The tweets stopped after a little more than an hour, and Burger King said it had reached out to Twitter to suspend the account. A Twitter spokesman did not immediately respond to a phone message left on Monday. Late Monday, Burger King tweeted: "Interesting day here at BURGER KING, but we're back! Welcome to our new followers. Hope you all stick around!"

Alleges massive Chinese hacking: Cyberattacks that stole massive amounts of information from military contractors, energy companies and other key industries in the U.S. and elsewhere have been traced to the doorstep of a Chinese military unit, a U.S. security firm alleged today. China dismissed the report as "groundless." China has frequently been accused of hacking, but the report by Virginia-based Mandiant Corp. contains some of the most extensive and detailed accusations to date linking its military to a wave of cyberspying against U.S. and other foreign companies and government agencies.

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